Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

Society as a moral order: Adam Smith's theory of sociability as a response to Mandeville and Rousseau

Sternick Ivan, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

This paper aims to show that Smith’s theory of sympathy and the impartial spectator can be understood as an attempt to overcome the selfish anthropology advocated by Mandeville and denounced by Rousseau. In Smith’s view, if Mandeville’s theory of the psychology behind commerce and exchange was correct, then Rousseau would be right in his denunciation of the moral evils of civilization. However, for Smith, Mandeville’s theses were wrong, and thus Rousseau’s critiques were largely unfounded, because, quite paradoxically, they relied on Mandeville’s description of sociability. Therefore, the often emphasized sympathies of Smith for Rousseau’s arguments should be mitigated.

Area: Young Scholar Seminar

Keywords: Adam Smith; Sociability; Self-love; Commerce; Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Bernard Mandeville.

Please Login in order to download this file